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Coal company fires 150 workers in response to Obama re-election

At least one chief executive is making good on his pledge to cut jobs following President Barack Obama’s re-election this week.

Robert Murray, the chief executive of Ohio-based coal provider Murray Energy Corp., began laying off a small number of employees this week after Republican challenger Mitt Romney lost his bid for the White House.

The privately-held company, which had about 3,500 employees before the layoffs began, fired more than 150 employees at three locations this week. A spokesman, Gary Broadbent, said the layoffs were ongoing and these were just the latest announcements.

The layoff notices blamed Obama’s “war on coal” for the job cuts.

There were about 80,000 people employed in coal mining in the U.S. as of October, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s actually more than when the nation went into recession in December of 2007, but it’s fewer than a year ago.

In general, the economy has slowly been adding jobs, and the unemployment rate has been falling. But some industries have continued to shed jobs even as conditions have improved generally.

Murray outlined his plans to cut jobs following the election in a staff meeting with about 50 employees Wednesday.

The agenda for the meeting, along with the text of Murray’s “prayer for America,” were provided to by the company.

In the agenda, he predicted the total destruction of the coal industry by as early as 2030. He said conditions for his business would deteriorate because of more regulation and taxes, weaker economic activity and reduced energy pricing.

In the prayer, Murray wrote, in part:

“The American people have made their choice. They have decided that America must change its course, away from the principals of our Founders. And, away from the idea of individual freedom and individual responsibility. Away from capitalism, economic responsibility, and personal acceptance.”

He concluded by asking God for forgiveness for the layoff decisions.

“Lord, please forgive me and anyone with me in Murray Energy Corporation for the decisions that we are now forced to make to preserve the very existence of any of the enterprises that you have helped us build. We ask for your guidance in this drastic time with the drastic decisions that will be made to have any hope of our survival as an American business enterprise.”

About 100 of the layoffs are at UtahAmerican, the subsidiary  that operates the Crandall Canyon Mine. In 2007, a collapse at that mine killed nine people. Two months ago the company agreed to pay about $1 million in civil penalties as part of a settlement related to failures and violations that led to the collapse.

Broadbent, the Murray Energy spokesman, said in an e-mail that the layoffs announced this week are not related to the disaster and penalties.

“Those are separate issues,” he wrote.

Several companies made headlines before the presidential election Tuesday for insinuating that they would fire workers if Romney was not elected.